Dave Robicheaux #21
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster, January 2018
Detective Dave Robicheaux returns from his last adventure in Montana to the sheriff’s department in Iberia, Louisiana, an area about which James Lee Burke writes poetically in the long tradition of southern writers like Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren. Robicheaux is a haunted person, suffering from the loss of his wife, Molly, who was killed in an auto accident, nightmares from his time in Vietnam, and alcoholism. In fact, he goes off the wagon (a devotee of Alcoholics Anonymous) and wonders if he could have murdered the victim, the person who caused his beloved wife’s death, while drunk, even as he conducted the investigation into the incident.
The novel is filled with all sorts of nefarious characters, ranging from outright gangsters to a Huey Long type who glibly mesmerizes the populace and plays a prominent role in events by representing how wealth and imagery can lead to undermining American traditions. And, of course, Clete Purcel, Dave’s closest friend, is front and center in the story, as is his daughter, Alafair, who writes a screenplay for a movie based on a Civil War event.
The piercing prose and the sweep of the tale, combined with the extraordinary characters, are incomparable.
It is interesting to note that while Mr. Burke writes about the South with such feeling, he lives in Montana. I guess distance makes for perspective.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2018.